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Family Program Lays the Foundation for Deployment 
Wading through the sea of information surrounding deployment. 
Families of deploying service members gather information and get answers specific to their situation during the Family Program Readiness Check Workshop held in Framingham Mass., Nov 15, 2009. (U.S. Army photo by Master Sgt. Pallas A. Wahl, Massachusetts National Guard Public Affairs)
By Master Sgt. Pallas A. Wahl, Massachusetts National Guard Public Affairs 

- As the New Year approaches, so does the realization that hundreds of National Guard families will have a loved one deployed soon.  Massachusetts is preparing more than 700 service members for deployment in early 2010 – and the families of those Soldiers are being prepared as well, through the Family Program Readiness Check Workshop.

Wading through the sea of information surrounding deployment such as finances, healthcare, separation, relationships and child care is often an overwhelming task for the person being deployed, but even more confusing for family members. The Guard’s Family Program Office  is working to change that.

In an effort to personalize the workshop and address individual concerns of family members, Family Programs is revamping their deployment briefings by addressing family member concerns by holding information expos.  During the expo, PowerPoint presentations are limited and face to face interaction is encouraged. Addressing particular family questions, and getting on the spot answers, makes the expo interactive and successful.

“My husband has deployed before during his career,” said Master Sgt. Lisa Dubois, senior human resource noncommissioned officer in charge and mother. “I thought I knew all I needed to know about deployment, being a Guardsman myself, but I found the updated and new information on resources very helpful to our family. This setup makes it easier to get the answers that my family needs now.”

The workshop begins with a group session presenting information from organizations that support the military such as the Red Cross, Military one source, Tricare (a military Health insurance provider) and Operation Military Kids.  Following the group session is the expo where families can move freely and stop at a variety of stations ranging from education to spiritual support.

Subject matter experts are on hand to answer questions that concern families personally. A vast array of materials, handouts, books and videos are there for the taking and family members have the opportunity to speak with each other to offer mutual support.  Points of contact are made for follow up information and networking among families occurs.

“Allowing people to decide which stations to visit for information, empowers them to seek the answers they need as a family, it engages everyone in the process of deployment, when often, family members feel powerless, almost like bystanders” said Family Assistance Coordinator for the Guard, Jennifer Cesaitis. “Tending to a person’s immediate concerns can alleviate a lot of fear allowing families the freedom to focus on what’s important at home,” said Cesaitis.

Deployment remains a part of the National Guard’s future and Family Program Readiness Workshops ensure that families of deployed service members have active, informed roles in those deployments.

For more information on Family Program Readiness Workshops, contact Family Programs at 508-233-7222.